Federal government passes climate adaptation law

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Government draft for a Climate Adaptation Act presented by the Federal Environment Ministry passed on 13.7.2023.

The Act creates for the first time a strategic framework for precautionary climate adaptation at all administrative levels in Germany. Cities and municipalities are particularly affected when it comes to concrete precautions for the consequences of the climate crisis. Therefore, this bill is intended to mandate the states to ensure systematic and comprehensive climate adaptation strategies in the states and climate adaptation concepts for the areas of municipalities and districts. At the same time, the bill commits the federal government to pursue a precautionary climate adaptation strategy with measurable goals in the future.

The new Climate Adaptation Act sets the strategic framework for future climate adaptation at the federal, state and local levels. This framework should make it possible to coordinate all efforts for climate adaptation at all levels and to advance them across all fields of action. The goal is that in the future, concepts for climate adaptation will be developed at all federal levels in order to target the necessary steps for nationwide climate precaution in Germany with a systematic analysis of affected areas and planning of measures.

The new Climate Adaptation Act is primarily characterized by three core elements:

Strengthening local climate adaptation: For effective precautionary action, adaptation concepts and action plans based on risk analyses are to be drawn up as comprehensively as possible, especially at the local level. The Climate Adaptation Act therefore mandates the states to (1) present and implement their own climate adaptation strategies, (2) ensure that local climate adaptation concepts are prepared based on risk analyses - with reference to areas of municipalities and counties - and (3) report to the federal government how many municipalities and counties have such concepts. The states have a great deal of leeway in designing climate adaptation concepts at the local level, and may determine, for example, that they are to be prepared only for areas of municipalities above a certain population threshold.

The federal climate adaptation law will have a positive effect - but unfortunately it is not particularly ambitious; the bdla had proposed better regulations. At least area-wide adaptation concepts will become mandatory. Much will now depend on the climate adaptation strategy to be developed by the end of 2024. The bdla is already contributing to the debate both professionally and politically.

Mario Kahl, bdla national director

Precautionary federal climate adaptation strategy: The federal government should be required by law to present a precautionary climate adaptation strategy with measurable targets. The strategy will be regularly updated and implemented on an ongoing basis. This will further develop the existing German adaptation strategy. In the future, concrete, measurable targets will allow measures and instruments to be targeted more precisely. The targets will not be laid down in law, but will be developed in a separate strategy process. Citizens, states and associations will be involved in this development. The first climate adaptation strategy in its new form is to be adopted by the federal government by the end of 2024, even though the law would give it until the end of the legislative period to do so.

Consideration requirement: As a further instrument for strengthening climate adaptation in Germany, the draft law stipulates that public bodies must take the goal of climate adaptation into account in their planning and decisions in an interdisciplinary and integrated manner. The public agencies are also to work towards restoring and unsealing the natural soil functions of soils that have already been sealed and whose sealing is no longer permanently necessary for their use, as far as this is necessary and reasonable, as part of measures in their area of responsibility.

In parallel to the legislative process for the Climate Adaptation Act and the development of the climate adaptation strategy, the federal and state governments are discussing within the framework of the Conference of Environment Ministers (UMK) what form long-term, reliable financing of climate adaptation measures might take.

Following the decision by the cabinet, the draft Climate Adaptation Act will next be submitted to the Bundesrat and the Bundestag for referral and adoption.

Climate Adaptation Act

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